26 October 2023

Federal and Queensland governments join forces to combat Fire Ants

| Andrew McLaughlin
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Fore Ant

Fire Ants were first discovered in Australia in Brisbane in 2001. Photo: NSW Dept of Primary Industry.

The Federal and Queensland governments have announced additional funding of $268 million towards the National Fire Ant Eradication Program.

The new money adds to the $411 million in joint state and federal funding committed to the eradication of Fire Ants since 2017, and will cover 350 new workers, a new depot, new vehicles, new aerial eradication contracts and an additional 1400 tonnes of bait each year.

Fire Ants, or Red Ants as they are also known, are an invasive pest prevalent in tropical and sub-tropical regions that have slowly established themselves in the wider Brisbane region in recent years including the Lockyer Valley, Muirlea, Goodna and the Brisbane metro areas.

The species was introduced to Australia from their original home of the Philippines, most coming here in shipping containers. Originally found in the Brisbane area in 2001, Fire Ants have also been spotted in Sydney in recent years.

A 22 October joint release says the additional funding stems from recommendations of a recent Strategic Program Review and builds on more than two decades of learnings since Fire Ants were first discovered in Australia. It says it will support the program’s operations while doubling the size of the treatment and surveillance area.

Fire Ants emit a painful bite and are also associated with crop and livestock losses, as well as damage to electrical infrastructure such as domestic air conditioners, streetlights and telecommunications networks. For humans, a bite results in a burning sensation and swelling. If scratched bites can become infected and, in extreme cases, allergic reactions can lead to death.

Federal Treasurer and member for Rankin Jim Chalmers described Fire Ants as a threat to the community.

“That’s why we’re doing everything we can to eradicate this pest,” he said.

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“Our community in Logan is ground zero in the fight against Fire Ants and the funding we’re delivering today will enable us to ramp up initiatives we know work.

“I’ve seen first-hand the success of the program’s efforts in slowing the spread rate of Fire Ants in southeast Queensland, particularly here in my community in Logan.

“Without the program, Fire Ants would now infest around 100 million hectares in an arc of country from Bowen in the north, west to Longreach and south to Canberra.

“If they aren’t eliminated, these ants will quickly migrate across the country and that would cause economic, health and social impacts in excess of $1.25 billion annually, forever.”

Queensland Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said a nationally coordinated and decisive response is the best opportunity to eradicate the Fire Ant.

“Queensland has been leading the way in responding directly to this issue and we have been successful at limiting the spread to south-east Queensland,” he said.

“The national eradication program is being complemented by the Palaszczuk Government’s $37.5 million Fire Ant Suppression Taskforce.

“Last month we launched a Fire Ant treatment blitz on the Gold Coast which is seeing targeted properties being treated and free Fire Ant treatment kits distributed.

“We are also working closely with the NSW Government on a cross-border taskforce to stop the further spread.”

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